Caulton Tudor

Cutcliffe, Duke only college program earning early As

Posted September 11

Two weeks into the season, there’s a clear-cut early leader on the area coaches report card list.

David Cutcliffe, Duke, A: The 41-17 win over Northwestern was one of the Blue Devils’ most impressive performances of the entire Cutcliffe era, and that’s saying something.

Daniel Jones was near-perfect at quarterback with 305 yards passing and 108 rushing against a competitive Big 10 defense.

Meanwhile, Duke’s defense was on point throughout. Sophomore cornerback Mark Gilbert (Fayetteville Terry Sanford High) led the effort with two interceptions, but the defensive front also was dominant.

If they can stay healthy, the Devils have the look of a contender in the ACC Coastal and should move to 3-0 with another non-conference win this week over struggling Baylor.

Previous grade: A.

Dave Doeren, NC State, C: The Wolfpack had trouble putting the South Carolina loss in the rear-view mirror but recovered quickly in the second quarter of a 37-20 win over Marshall.

Ryan Finley was plenty sharp again at quarterback, including one run for 46 yards in addition to 341 passing yards and three touchdown strikes.

But it was a regular struggle at times defensively, and the Pack secondary is showing a lot of early-season wear and tear. Finding enough depth will be a concern after this week’s game against Furman (0-2 with losses to Wofford and Elon).

Previous grade: F.

Larry Fedora, UNC, D: But there’s no D as in defense on the Tar Heel coach’s team. The unit that was supposed to keep the program afloat this season instead has been riddled twice at home – first by California and Saturday by Louisville in a 47-35 shootout.

It was a particularly miserable afternoon for Carolina’s linebackers and defensive backs. Neither group could come close to covering receivers or containing Lamar Jackson.

The Heels should finally get a win this week at Conference USA hopeful Old Dominion, but the Monarchs are 2-0 with reasonably strong defensive showings against Albany and Massachusetts.

Previous grade: F.

Scottie Montgomery, ECU, F: West Virginia showed the Pirates a lot of second-half mercy, meaning the 56-20 loss in Morgantown could have been a lot more one-sided. It was 49-3 at halftime, which probably set the stage for defensive coordinator Kenwick Thompson’s ensuing demotion.

Nonetheless, Montgomery did say his team “got better” over the final 30 minutes, but that could have been a case of graveyard whistling with Virginia Tech and South Florida just ahead.

Previous grade: F.

Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers, A: Beating San Francisco 23-3 in the season opener doesn’t mean the Panthers are back to their 2015 form, but any NFL road win is important and particularly in this case. With Buffalo and New Orleans on deck and both games in Charlotte, a 3-0 takeoff should be at hand.

Former Tampa Bay wide-out Russell Shepard got off to a hot start with an early 40-yard touchdown reception from Cam Newton.

Cheers: Former NC State quarterback Mike Glennon was impressive most of the way, but Chicago still lost at home to Atlanta, 23-17. Glennon completed 26 of 40 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown and wasn’t intercepted …

Meanwhile, Jacoby Brissett, another former Wolfpack QB, was a late reliever for Indianapolis in its 46-3 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Brissett completed two of three passes for 51 yards. Colts starter Scott Tolizien was intercepted twice. Tarboro High product Todd Gurley led the Rams in rushing with 40 yards and a touchdown in the second quarter …

Former UNC coach Butch Davis picked up his first win at Florida International with a 17-10 verdict over Alcorn State in Birmingham on Friday. FIU got smacked around by Central Florida in the opener, but Davis applauded his team for keeping its focus during a hectic week.

Jeers: Give Penn State coach James Franklin a lot of credit for speaking his mind after a 33-14 win over former arch-rival Pitt, but you have to think these words might come back to haunt him.

“I know last year for their win it was like the Super Bowl, but for us this was just like beating Akron,” Franklin said.

Notre Dame’s famed home field advantage took another hit with the 20-19 loss to Georgia in South Bend.

After going 4-8 last season, Brian Kelly’s team now launches a string of games that includes ACC teams Boston College this week, UNC (Oct. 7), State (Oct. 28), Wake Forest (Nov. 4) and Miami (Nov. 11).

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